Slow Food is against the commercial planting of genetically modified crops (GMOs) and promotes GMO-free food and animal feed.
What are G.M.O.'s and why is Slow Food against them?
"Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. " WHO
Genetic engineering is a targeted and powerful method of introducing traits into animals or plants using recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology. DNA is the chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.
The important difference between GMO's and Hybrid varieties is that GMO's could not ever happen naturally in nature. Hybridization, not a form of GMO's, does happen, like when there is a cross breed between a horse and a donkey to breed a mule.
Approximately 70% of all processed food on the grocery store shelves contains GMO corn or soy. Many fish and animals such as salmon, sheep, cows, featherless chickens and others have been created in laboratories for the convenience of humans, however many people think that not enough research has been done to call these animals safe, especially to eat. Studies in Russia have shown that some animals that eat GMO foods are later not able to reproduce on their own. Farm animals who can not reproduce create a non-sustainable farm. To imagine a non-sustainable farm think of tomatoes with seeds that would not grow or eggs that would never hatch in to chicks, or cows that could not give birth to baby calves. Research has not yet been done to know if humans who eat GMO's would not be able to reproduce like the animals. More studies must be done.
Genetically Modified Organism, or GMO's refer to plants usually, and sometimes animals. Many farm animals even if they are not Genetically engineered, are fed a diet of plants, usually corn or soy that are genetically engineered. These organism can pass from the diet of animals like hens to their eggs or cows to their milk unless the farmer is very careful to avoid feed made of GMO seeds.
In this photo, a hen at Earth Perks farm in Rutherford NC sits on eggs after she has eaten a normal diet of pasture grasses and flowers, insects, some pebbles and a little bit of organic non-GMO animal feed. Farmer Rich Davis believes very strongly that feeding GMO feed to animals is not part of a sustainable farming system.
Ten Reasons to Say No GMO'S by Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food
1) CONTAMINATION: Safely cultivating GMOs is impossible because small farms lack adequate natural barriers to protect organic and conventional crops. Additionally, agriculture is part of a living system which includes wild fauna, the water cycle, the wind and the reactions of microorganisms in the soil; GM crops cannot be confined to the surface of the field in which they are being cultivated.
2) FOOD SOVEREIGNTY: How could organic, biodynamic and conventional farmers be sure that their products are not contaminated? Even the limited spread of GM crops in open fields will change forever the quality and the current state of our agriculture, destroying our freedom to choose what we eat.
3) HEALTH: It has been shown that animals fed with GMOs can develop health problems.
"While theoretical discussions have covered a broad range of aspects, the three main issues debated are tendencies to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity), gene transfer and outcrossing.
Allergenicity. As a matter of principle, the transfer of genes from commonly allergenic foods is discouraged unless it can be demonstrated that the protein product of the transferred gene is not allergenic. While traditionally developed foods are not generally tested for allergenicity, protocols for tests for GM foods have been evaluated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and WHO. No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market.
Gene transfer. Gene transfer from GM foods to cells of the body or to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract would cause concern if the transferred genetic material adversely affects human health. This would be particularly relevant if antibiotic resistance genes, used in creating GMOs, were to be transferred. Although the probability of transfer is low, the use of technology without antibiotic resistance genes has been encouraged by a recent FAO/WHO expert panel.
Outcrossing. The movement of genes from GM plants into conventional crops or related species in the wild (referred to as “outcrossing”), as well as the mixing of crops derived from conventional seeds with those grown using GM crops, may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security. This risk is real, as was shown when traces of a maize type which was only approved for feed use appeared in maize products for human consumption in the United States of America. Several countries have adopted strategies to reduce mixing, including a clear separation of the fields within which GM crops and conventional crops are grown.
Feasibility and methods for post-marketing monitoring of GM food products, for the continued surveillance of the safety of GM food products, are under discussion."
4) FREEDOM: GM crops denature the role of farmers, who have always improved and selected their own seeds. GM seeds are owned by multinationals to whom the farmer must turn every new season, because, like all commercial hybrids, second-generation GMOs do not give good results. It is also forbidden for farmers to try to improve the variety without paying expensive royalties.
5) ECONOMY AND CULTURE: GM products do not have historical or cultural links to a local area. In Italy for example, a significant part of its agricultural and food economy is based upon identity and the variety of local products. Introducing anonymous products with no history would weaken a system that also has close links to the tourism industry.
6) BIODIVERSITY: GM crops impoverish biodiversity because they require large surface areas and an intensive monoculture system. Growing only one kind of corn for human consumption will mean a reduction in flavors and knowledge.
7) ECO-COMPATIBILITY: Research on GMOs has so far focused on two kinds of “advantages”: resistance to a corn parasite (the corn borer) and resistance to a herbicide (glyphosate). Supporters of GMOs say that they allow the reduced use of synthetic chemicals. But crop rotation is the only real way to fight the corn borer, and herbicide resistance will only lead to freer use of the chemical in the fields, given that it harms only undesirable weeds, not the actual crops.
8) CAUTION: Around 30 years since GMOs began to be studied, results in the agricultural sector concern only three crops (corn, rapeseed and soy). In fact the plants do not support the genetic modifications very well and this science is still rudimentary and partially entrusted to chance. We would like to see a more cautious and careful approach, as in Germany and France, where some GM crops have been banned.
9) PROGRESS: GMOs are the result of a myopic and superficial way of seeing progress. The role of small-scale agriculture in the protection of local areas, the defense of the landscape and the struggle against global warming is increasingly clear to consumers, governments and scientists. Instead of following the siren call of the market, modern research should support sustainable agriculture and its needs.
10) HUNGER: When it comes to hunger, the United Nations says that family agriculture will protect the sectors of the population at risk of malnutrition. Some believe that GMOs will feed the world, but since they began to be marketed around 15 years ago, the number of starving people in the world has only grown, just like the profits of the companies that produce the seeds. In countries like Argentina and Brazil, GM soy has swept away energy-providing crops like potatoes, corn, wheat and millet on which the daily diet is based.
"No specific international regulatory systems are currently in place. However, several international organizations are involved in developing protocols for GMOs.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) is the joint FAO/WHO body responsible for compiling the standards, codes of practice, guidelines and recommendations that constitute the Codex Alimentarius: the international food code. Codex is developing principles for the human health risk analysis of GM foods. The premise of these principles dictates a premarket assessment, performed on a case-by-case basis and including an evaluation of both direct effects (from the inserted gene) and unintended effects (that may arise as a consequence of insertion of the new gene). The principles are at an advanced stage of development and are expected to be adopted in July 2003. Codex principles do not have a binding effect on national legislation, but are referred to specifically in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement of the World Trade Organization (SPS Agreement), and can be used as a reference in case of trade disputes.
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), an environmental treaty legally binding for its Parties, regulates transboundary movements of living modified organisms (LMOs). GM foods are within the scope of the Protocol only if they contain LMOs that are capable of transferring or replicating genetic material. The cornerstone of the CPB is a requirement that exporters seek consent from importers before the first shipment of LMOs intended for release into the environment. The Protocol will enter into force 90 days after the 50th country has ratified it, which may be in early 2003 in view of the accelerated depositions registered since June 2002." WHO